More Bats of the Northwest

In a previous article, I spoke about two of our most common bats. One of the others which is quite common and is much like the first two is Keen’s Bat. All three of these (Little Brown, Big Brown and Keen’s) have quite a bit in common.
One thing is that they all hibernate in caves during the winter. These caves have to have certain characteristics, including being able to maintain a temperature of about 40° F, in the winter. Old mine shafts serve very well, too. These things are not always handy, so the bats often have to go 200 miles or more to tuck themselves away for the winter.
Our other three bats are quite different. Here they are:
oSilver-haired bat: the fur of this one is quite dark–nearly black. But the body hairs are all tipped with silver, giving the appearance of a silver frosting. It is a solitary species which, during the days, hangs by itself in trees or under eaves, or nooks and crannies in buildings.
oHairy Bat: this is our largest, about 6 inches in length. It has three different colours on its body–slate, tawny yellow and dark brown. All of the long hairs have silver tips, so it also has the appearance of being frosted. (Hoary is an old English term, meaning frosty).
oRed Bat: the nicest looking one of them all. It’s back is brick red, and its front is a bit paler. It is of medium size and is found all the way from Eastern Canada to Central America.
These bats are all loners, and they live in trees, not caves. They may hang themselves to the trunk, get into a thick clump of leaves, or even hide under loose bark, or in crevices.
These bats are different in another major way–they all migrate. Like many birds, they gather in large flocks in the fall and head down to warmer, more hospitable climates. Some, but not all, go as far south as the Gulf States and California. Lots of flocks have been spotted away out in the Atlantic, and many take a long nest in Bermuda. With modern radar, we can follow the paths of migrating bats and birds, quite accurately.
There is one rather bad thing about the small bats, especially the Brown ones. They roost in the daytime in large numbers. Quite often they do this in old buildings–barns, old schoolhouses, derelict houses, and so on. And sometimes they get into your attic, or the top of any old building.
Now, as they are there all day, quite a lot of bat droppings are piled up underneath them. Not only is this stuff sort of runny, but it also stinks to high heaven. A buildup of bat dung is really revolting. What you have to do is find where they are getting in and block it up. That isn’t all that easy either. I found out the hard way one time, that they can slip through the bars in a birdcage just as though the bars weren’t there.
Look for bats at dusk, when they come out of hiding to feed on those multitudes of insects. They will fly until the sun starts to come up. Usually you get a glimpse of them, flying erratically, low in your garden or just above the trees along the street. They like to skim along the surface of still water, which is how they drink.
Bats are completely beneficial to mankind, because of vast number of insects they consume. There is no reason in the world why a bat should ever be killed. You can encourage them by building a ‘bat-house.’ But if they get into your own house, get them out as fast as you can.

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